Day 84: Larousse
“The bible of cooking. The all-time argument-ender. Early in my cooking career, I wielded my Larousse like a weapon and it never let me down.” It's hard to argue the absolute importance of Larousse Gastronomique, and I think Anthony Bourdain summed it up pretty well here. Since it's first printing in 1938, it's been the bible for chefs around the world. I doubt Bourdain ever thought he would publish something with a similar impact for young chefs.
Good afternoon, my thirst readers. Two years ago, we had a really rough couple weeks in the hospitality world. We lost several titans of our industry, but none probably impacted as many as the untimely death of writer, chef, and world traveler, Anthony Bourdain.
I wish I had picked up Kitchen Confidential earlier than I had. It was 2006 when I finally read the book which would change my life, a full six years after it was published. Until that point, I looked at my restaurant work as a means to an end, certainly not planning a hospitality-driven career. There was a shame associated with servitude. Afterall, that's why we all went to college, wasn't it? Any job that didn't require a degree was considered a dead-end job at the time, and restaurant work was generally reserved as a last resort.
Something about the passion Bourdain used to weave his tale of a career behind the stove, just stuck with me and so many others. It became our clarion call. Somewhere, between his stories of late-night antics and drug use, he let's us know "It's okay, I'm a misfit too, and this is where we belong. Welcome home." His friends called him Tony.
I mentioned the best meal of my life, back on Day 6. I'll be honest, I only heard of St. John because of Bourdain. He waxed poetically about the work of Fergus Henderson for years. I knew, the moment I had the chance, I needed to see what the fuss what about. I was certainly not disappointed. It was about a year later, when I finally met the man, and I was honestly tongue-tied. I wanted to tell him about how that meal changed my life. I wanted to tell him how he had changed my life, how he told me if was okay to follow what I loved. All I could force out was "Hey Chef, how's it going?" He shook his head and just shrugged, gave me a smile, said "Not bad," and I was too nervous to say much else. That was our interaction, our first and last.
A month later, I woke up to the news. Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide in his hotel room in Paris. I was beyond stunned, and the restaurant world wept. Why didn't I say something? Why didn't I tell him what his words meant to us all, how he literally saved my life, by telling me it was okay to choose this life. He must hear that all the time, but would it have made a difference? I've spent a lot of nights awake, trying to make sense of it all. There's no way to make sense. The restaurant word had lost their patron saint. He left behind his own bible, which will live on as an icon to us all, just like Larousse. We are forever grateful to him, Saint Anthony the Opinionated.
.75oz Thyme Old Tom Gin
.75oz Rainwater Madeira
.75oz Dry Vermouth
.5oz Mirepoix Oleo Saccharum
2 dashes Lemon Bitters
Stir and strain into chilled glass.
Garnish with lightly-torched fresh bay leaf.
Thyme Old Tom Gin
750ml Old Tom Gin
2 bunches of thyme
Macerate 12 hours, then strain.
1 head of celery
3 large carrots
3 green onions
6 cups white sugar
Chop all ingredients and cover with sugar.
Allow to sit at room temperature for 24 hours.
Strain and serve.
Your friends miss you, Tony. The world misses you. I'm so thankful for the life I've led, and that wouldn't have been possible without picking up that book, the book which changed how I viewed the world of restaurants, even the world as a whole. I sure would like to hear what you'd have to say about this mess we're currently living. You sure did leave us with some great words to live by. "Travel isn't always pretty. It isn't always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that's OK. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind." Thank you again, for what you've left behind. Stay safe everyone, and keep shaking.